Dr. Gemma Houldey Author, Mentor, Facilitator for Resilient and Inclusive Cultures

Supporting humanitarians and change-makers to avoid burnout, feel more purposeful and end toxic working cultures

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We live in a time of increasing pressures and expectations in the workplace, and growing polarisation in our societies. If you are engaged in humanitarian work, or social change activism, you are likely to feel this even more.

I’m here to help you feel more rooted in your purpose; more confident in expressing what you stand for; and more able to navigate these tumultuous times from a place of strength, hope and compassion.


The humanitarian and social impact sector has many unhealthy traits – such as macho behaviour, perfectionism and the censure of those who dare to challenge the status quo.

We can change this together. You may be a leader wanting to prevent burnout and build more inclusive and resilient teams. Or perhaps a staff member or volunteer wanting a greater sense of purpose, connection and joy. I am here to support you.



I believe that cultures of care and wellbeing are essential to any workplace, but especially for those whose purpose is to care for others. It starts with ourselves – so let’s build this culture together.

"Having worked in the international development sector herself, Gemma was acutely aware of the particular challenges and stresses we face in our day to day work. Her approach was interactive, as well as informative.

She talked us through some techniques and exercises but also gave us the floor to talk and listen to each other about our feelings, both positive and negative, during this challenging time.

I liked this balance. We’ve each come away with a better sense of how to look after ourselves at this time, and each other”.

Emma Haegeman, Senior Consultant at Social Development Direct.

The Vulnerable Humanitarian – About the Book

2021-09-29 14.25.29

My book, The Vulnerable Humanitarian, is inspired by my own experience of burnout and recovery, and by the stories of others who have made self- and collective care a core value that guides all their social change efforts.

The Vulnerable Humanitarian is a mixture of things: a memoir, a self-help book, a treatise on what needs to change in the humanitarian – and, more broadly – the charity sector, and how we go about transforming our work environments. It contains guideposts, practices and techniques for you to try out in your quest for culture change, and greater self- and collective care in your social change efforts.

“This book belongs to the library of every humanitarian. This is not just because they will find it interesting but because it is a book most of us have been long waiting for.

Gemma manages to masterfully bring together two seemingly incompatible worlds. First, she forces readers to expose themselves to the many painful truths about our sector. She then goes on to share concrete advice on how we can actually transform it into a space that is more inclusive, safer and that puts care at the very centre of it, not only for the communities we work with but for our humanitarian colleagues as well.”

Serap Altinisik, Head of Office, Plan International EU Office


Book circle

Would you like to explore the findings and recommendations of The Vulnerable Humanitarian in a community of practice, along with me the author?
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